The dictionary defines treason as betrayal, treachery, disloyalty and faithlessness. I looked it up, because it was the word that came to mind when I read this article by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.
Marshall was revisiting a report that first emerged in June, 2016, about a remark made by Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader, asserting that both Donald Trump and Dana Rohrabacher were on Putin’s payroll. When the comment leaked, staff members dismissed it as a “joke”–which it pretty obviously wasn’t. At the time, there was no way of knowing what prompted the observation. But as Marshall writes,
Given all we know now, it’s worth revisiting not only the stunning quote but the context around it.
Let’s start by reviewing the gist of the news. Here, from Entous’s article, McCarthy pipes up in a conversation among House leadership about Russia and Ukraine.
That’s when McCarthy brought the conversation about Russian meddling around to the DNC hack, Trump and Rohrabacher.
“I’ll guarantee you that’s what it is. . . . The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research that they had on Trump,” McCarthy said with a laugh.
Ryan asked who the Russians “delivered” the opposition research to.
“There’s . . . there’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy said, drawing some laughter. “Swear to God,” McCarthy added.
“This is an off the record,” Ryan said.
Some lawmakers laughed at that.
“No leaks, all right?,” Ryan said, adding: “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
Marshall notes that McCarthy and Ryan had each met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Groysman earlier in the day.
According to the recording obtained by The Washington Post, in his meetings with top US officials Groysman had focused on the dynamic we’ve all grown familiar with over the last two years: Russian funding of populist, rightist political parties, propaganda campaigns meant to throw competitor states off balance and into turmoil and even financial subsidies directly to key politicians.
Whatever else Groysman discussed with them, subsequent comments made by Ryan make it clear that he was aware of Russia’s very sophisticated cyber-warfare techniques, and that they weren’t confined to Ukraine: financing populists, financing people in various governments to sabotage those governments, interfering with oil and gas energy production, and a variety of other disruptive strategies.
The question is whether Groysman told McCarthy and the others something more specific. It’s not a stretch to imagine he did. The accounts suggest he was describing patterns and candidates very much like Donald Trump. We simply don’t have evidence to settle that question. The people in that meeting certainly aren’t talking. What strikes me is that the people in that meeting, certainly Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan had a very clear sense of Russian operations in Ukraine and Europe more broadly and how it matched what was taking shape with Donald Trump. The gist of Groysman’s message was that western countries needed to stand united because Russia represented a common threat. The first news of cyberattack the day before only put the equation in a sharper relief.
Whatever they knew then or suspected, the coming months would add dramatic weight to McCarthy’s suspicions. Wikileaks began releasing DNC emails a month later, throwing Clinton’s campaign repeatedly off track. Trump would more aggressively cheer on Russia’s actions. And remember: precisely what was happening – whether Russia was the power behind Wikileaks or someone else – wasn’t 100% clear at the time to ordinary citizens. But at least Ryan and likely McCarthy as well had contemporaneous intelligence briefings which made it crystal clear. Both men were among the 12 members of Congress who were briefed on the Russian campaign in early September 2016 by Jeh Johnson (DHS Secretary), James Comey and Lisa Monaco (White House Homeland Security Advisor).
At that briefing, according to reports,
“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.
As the sentences I’ve bolded indicate, McCarthy, Ryan and Mr. Evil–aka Mitch McConnell–have been aware of the nature and extent of Russian meddling since June of 2016. To get a complete and accurate picture of their disgraceful conduct, you need to click through and read the entire analysis, but as Marshall concludes,
McCarthy and Ryan as well had clear warnings and a clear understanding of the Russian pattern of conduct and Trump’s probable connection to it. They would get a lot more evidence over coming months confirming this impression from June 2016. But they either ignored what they knew or decided to make a conscious decision to unknow it as they moved more and more firmly into lockstep support of Donald Trump. We see this especially clearly with McCarthy, the one who appeared most sure of the connection in this June 15th 2016 meeting and would become the most loyal and staunchest advocate for Trump in the ensuing months and years.
Treachery? Disloyalty? Faithlessness?
Ryan said the Republicans were all “family.” Right. Like the Corleones…